Stadium bill filed, $150M for community benefits may be on the chopping block

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The clock is now officially ticking for Jacksonville City Council to act on the stadium deal after formal legislation was filed at noon Tuesday.


“That makes the whole process going forward official,” said Council President Ron Salem (R-Group 2 At-Large).

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Salem said council members are ready to hit the ground running and he’s optimistic a final vote on the legislation, which was given the bill number “904″, will be taken in just two weeks.

“It’ll be a big attempt to try to get it out before we go on break and then we come back, we get into the budget, potentially hurricane season as well. So, we’d all like to get it out on June 25th,” said Salem.

Generally, bills take 30 days to move through the legislative process.

But Salem said even though the $1.7 billion deal that includes a $925 million city investment will move twice as fast, it will be subject to the same level of vetting.

“We’re meeting all the requirements in just a little shorter period of time,” said Salem.

RELATED: Jacksonville City Council begins workshops on proposed Stadium of the Future deal

The bill will be publicly introduced at the council meeting tonight and come up for its first committee hearing Thursday.

The following Thursday will be the first day amendments can be made, and if passed on the 25th, the deal will be ready to be presented to NFL team owners in October for final approval.

“And I’m hopeful it will pass overwhelmingly at the council level,” said Salem.

But one piece of the deal appears to be at risk of being derailed: The $300 million community benefits agreement, which includes $150 million of city spending for parks, workforce development, affordable housing and homelessness.

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At a meeting of business leaders Tuesday, Salem was asked how the city can afford to put up $925 million for the stadium, a billion for a new jail and also bring back the police and fire pension all at once.

Salem indicated those financial concerns are why he wants the CBA to be further vetted.

“And you might see something that attempts to carve that out, move it to a separate legislative cycle of some sort,” said Salem.

Specifically, Salem noted he’s not a fan of the $1 million included for parks projects in each council district.

Even more so, Salem argued there are few specifics about who would receive the remaining $136 million and how it would be distributed.

“It’s not clear through the legislation how all of this is going to be monitored and such and we need to get those answers as well,” said Salem.

RELATED: Jaguars Stadium deal framework finalized, residents concerned of impact to historic neighborhoods

On the other hand, Councilmember Matt Carlucci (R-Group 4 At-Large) is a proponent of passing the entire deal all at once.

“We will score a touchdown or a field goal. And I’m for scoring a touchdown,” said Carlucci.

He argued by waiting until the mayor releases her budget proposal in July, the community benefits piece could end up being watered down or abandoned completely.

“We have a chance. We should not blow this chance,” said Carlucci.

Mayor Donna Deegan also defended the inclusion of the CBA.

“The combined stadium renovation and community benefits agreement are how we finally meet our city’s promise for everyone. It’s my hope that City Council passes this once-in-a-generation investment as the single package in which it was negotiated,” said Deegan in a statement.

But Councilmember Rory Diamond (R-District 13), a longtime opponent of the CBA, argued even without the city investment, the Jags would still put up $100 million for community development.

“What deal would you rather have, $100 million from the Jags for free or $150 million from the Jaguars, but you have to spend $150 million and hand it to politicians? It’s easy. You always take the free money,” said Diamond.

Salem said we can likely expect to see an amendment pulling out the CBA brought up next Thursday.

Diamond indicated he believes there are enough votes to make it happen.

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